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Battle of the TV streaming services: Which is best for your house?

Hulu vs. Sling vs. YouTube vs. DirecTVNow and more
Posted: 5:00 AM, May 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-05 15:11:12-04

Streaming TV might sound better than ever as cable bills approach the $200-a-month mark, but would-be cord-cutters still need to be careful.

Services such as Hulu, Netflix and Sling can quickly become nearly as expensive as their traditional counterparts. Lately, almost all of them have raised prices and added more cable channels.

So which is truly the best service for your household? We dove in deep to find out.

Tired of cable bills

Kimberly Sieckman was fed up with her rising cable bill in her Covington, Kentucky apartment.

"I was finding as much as I was spending on cable, there wasn't that much I actually wanted to watch," she said.

She and her boyfriend bought a Roku box instead, trading cable for internet, basic Hulu and Netflix. She watches local channels like WCPO free with an antenna.

Their total savings clocked in around $80 per month.

"And we are completely happy with that," she said. "With that and an antenna, we had all we needed."

If she wants more, she knows "I can set up Sling TV on the Roku, and Amazon Prime Video as well."

Christi Semones is also a cord-cutter in her West Chester, Ohio home.

"I was paying over $200 just with basic cable," she said. "I had no HBO, no Showtime, none of the extra channels."

Semones cut back to just internet at $50 a month and now uses her Smart TV to watch YouTube and Netflix at big savings.

"It saved me over $100 a month when I just cut the cord and went to streaming," Semones said.

Beware rising streaming costs

However, if you’re not careful, signing up for internet ($50 to $70) plus Netflix ($13) , Hulu Live ($45), and HBO ($15) can add up fast. Throw in a couple of Amazon Prime or iTunes movie rentals and congratulations — your "cord-cutter" bill is now $120 a month. Where are the savings?

We wanted to know which service is the best overall.

With the help of the tech site CNET , we compared the five main players for 2019. The key to keep prices down, according to CNET, is to start with just one service, then add channels like HBO or ESPN Plus only if you are sure you will be using them.

Most now include ESPN, though you may have to pay an extra $10 a month for it.

So to get started, you will need a Smart TV, or a device like a Roku box or Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, or Google Chromecast. Once you have one, consider:

  • SlingTV : A bargain at $25 a month, which CNET calls the best value, but it is missing Fox News, Nickelodeon for kids and most local TV networks.
  • Hulu Live: $45, with the most cable and local channels, though no AMC or Comedy Central. It is the most popular service because it comes pre-installed on Roku and many SmartTVs, but CNET calls its interface awkward.
  • DirecTV Now: At $50, it is pricier but includes HBO, which normally costs $15 per month. Another plus: Its remote control may be the most like a cable remote, unlike Hulu. It has a wide variety of channels, but you won’t get HGTV or Scripps Networks/Discovery shows, which is a dealbreaker for some people.
  • PlayStation VUE: As of July 1, 2019, the price has gone up to $50 a month. No MTV, Lifetime or Nickelodeon for the kids. You do not need to own a PlayStation, but it helps.
  • YouTube TV: $50, but no A&E, Comedy Central, Lifetime or Nick. Very simple to use, however, since we are all familiar with YouTube.

On a budget? CNET says consider Philo at just $16 a month, but the service is missing many popular cable channels and is not a true cable replacement.

Sports lover? No service will give you all the live sports you get with cable (where you can surf between ESPN, FS1, TNT, and the major networks). but Mashable says Fubo at $45 a month may be the best option for sports fans.

Kimberly Sieckman said she is considering upgrading her Roku with Sling or another service but doesn’t want to go overboard. She knows how easy it is to top $100 a month nowadays.

Still, does she miss cable?

"Definitely not! With that and an antenna for CBS, NBC, ABC, I'm good," she said.

You can compare and find links to all the services on CNET so you don’t waste your money.

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